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Published: 10/16/2010

State GOP candidates' leads grow

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich and U.S. Senate contender Rob Portman have expanded their leads over Gov. Ted Strickland and Lee Fisher respectively among likely voters in the latest Ohio Poll released Friday.

Democratic Governor Strickland trails Mr. Kasich by 8 percentage points, 51 percent to 43 percent, double the 4-point spread of September. Mr. Fisher, in turns, trails his Republican opponent by 22 percentage points, 58 percent to 36 percent, compared to a 15-point gap in September.

Conducted by the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research, the poll reinforces the trends that this and other polls have been saying about the Senate race. But it contradicts what had been seen as a tightening battle for the governor's mansion.

The Ohio Poll shows Mr. Strickland and Mr. Kasich doing equally well within their own parties and nearly splitting the independent vote, so the results largely come down to more Republicans saying they're going to vote than Democrats. The poll of 705 likely voters conducted Oct. 8-13 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

“If you take the September newspaper poll, Democrats were at 42 percent of the likely voter pool,” said Eric W. Rademacher, the institute's co-director. “They stayed at 42 percent in October while Republicans increased from the first poll to the second. The campaign events in between the two polls have played a role in generating more excitement among Republicans than Democrats.

“The last two and a half weeks before Election Day provides a pretty good idea of what the camps need to do to energize voters,” he said. “It will come down to the quality and intensity of the get-out-the-vote effort.”

Mr. Strickland and Mr. Fisher hope to stir Democratic excitement Sunday night when President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama rally for him on the Oval at Ohio State University in Columbus.

Meanwhile, the Republican-leaning Tea Party is planning a downtown Cincinnati rally at Sawyer Point Park on the afternoon of Oct. 30, three days before the election. Of those polled who say they support the Tea Party, 85 percent plan to vote for Mr. Kasich.

Both Mr. Kasich and Mr. Strickland get 86 percent of the vote of those polled who identify themselves with their respective parties. Mr. Strickland gets 40 percent of the independent vote to 39 percent for Mr. Kasich. Those largely equal numbers prompted Mr. Strickland's campaign manager, Aaron Pickrell, to question “the so-called enthusiasm gap” that the poll suggests is out there.

Cathleen Johns, 52, of Sylvania, a Democratic volunteer who has remained active since Mr. Obama's election in 2008, has been selected to speak at Sunday's rally on getting out the vote.

“That's the beautiful thing about field work,” she said. “Those voters may be considered unlikely voters, but they're becoming energized and educated. They may be under the radar. I'm feeling more confident every day in talking to voters. They might not be those being polled, but they are going to vote.”

But Lucas County Republican Party Chairman Jon Stainbrook said GOP volunteers are making record numbers of phone calls and knocking on doors to turn out the vote in the Democratic stronghold county.

“I'm not seeing the energy that Democrats had in 2008 that energized people to vote Obama in,” Mr. Stainbrook said. “Democrats do not have the juice this year. We don't have the money, but we have the enthusiasm. In 2008, we had all the money, and we couldn't get our candidates elected.”

In the race to replace retiring Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, Mr. Portman is drawing the support of 58 percent of independents and is doing better among Democrats than Democratic Lt. Gov. Fisher is doing among Republicans.

Ninety percent of the Tea Partiers say they are in the camp of Mr. Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman who was President George W. Bush's White House budget director and trade adviser.

Contact Jim Provance at:jprovance@theblade.comor 614-221-0496.



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